A New Commandment
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. – John 13:34
Each of the three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – describe in detail the Last Supper, Jesus’ final meal with his disciples, during which he instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. However in the Gospel of John, the meal is mentioned only in passing. All we learn is that during supper, Jesus gets up and washes the feet of his disciples. It is the foot washing, and not the meal, that John describes in detail.
We learn that Jesus removed his outer robe, tied a towel around himself, poured water into a bowl, washed the feet of the disciples, and then dried their feet with a towel. This act of hospitality was normally one performed by a servant in the household of the person who was hosting the dinner. And Jesus said to the disciples, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14–15 NRSV)
The instruction that Jesus gave his disciples was not simply about washing feet, it was about loving others – serving others, defending others, helping others, living for others, dying for others – as he loved us. Shortly afterwards during supper, Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35 NRSV)
Once we have accepted the grace of God into our own lives, we are to share it with others and have the grace to accept that love when others share it with us. It is by our actions, through that sharing of grace and love with others, that people will recognise us as disciples of Jesus.
Jesus did his best to make his message simple and clear: God loves us without condition; we are to open ourselves to accept God’s love; and we are to love God and others as Jesus loves us.
Rawls, J. J. On the Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith. WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.